Lagos — The Director General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Prof. Bola Akinterinwa says it would be highly disadvantageous for South Africa to misconstrue Nigeria's tolerance of certain diplomatic excesses as cowardice. spoke to newsmen yesterday at a seminar on current global developments in Lagos. According to him, the seeming lethargy with which Nigeria approaches certain diplomatic provocations including the repatriation of some Nigerians from South Africa is not out of weakness but for her commitment to a formidable African cooperation.


"It is not as if we lack the strength to act. As a matter of fact, what is the big deal in taking measures against South Africa? But because they are doing the wrong thing we can't simply join them. We do not want retrogression for African unity and progress," Akinterinwa said.

He expressed regret that since the end of apartheid in 1994, the people of South Africa have consistently sent wrong signals to the people of Nigeria. This he described as a signal of lack of appreciation of Nigeria's role in their liberation struggle as well as a signal of xenophobia and unnecessary hostility.

Akinterinwa said in like manner, the home of the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa was violently attacked recently when bullets pierced through the windows of his kitchen. He also listed other provocative acts Nigeria had suffered in the hands of South Africans.

"Just about two months ago there were some South Africans willing to come to Nigeria to participate in a religious crusade and they applied for visas from the Nigerian High Commission in their country.

Since they were many, the High Commission called home for verification but because there was a delay in feedback, the South Africans simply jumped into conclusion that our diplomats in South Africa and the commission officers wanted bribes. They later besieged the commission office and almost pulled down the gate. Such action is not acceptable in international diplomacy," he said.

Prof. Akinterinwa said the latest row may not be unconnected with South Africa's ambition to step into the shoes of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in Africa and secure Africa's permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.

This, according to him, is the basis for the calculated attempt to rubbish Nigeria's reputation because she is perceived as a potential threat, when indeed Nigeria chose not to compete with any country for the seat.

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